What’s at the bottom of the slide?
What is a religious belief? Many who deny the existence of God would claim not to have any but that’s certainly false. Though religion can be defined as, “a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance,” I’m using “religion” and “religious” in the traditional sense as involving beliefs about the supernatural. And virtually every thinking adult has those.
So when the charge is made that a public official or small business owner is wrong in declining participation in a same-sex marriage because of their religious beliefs, the issue is not really the reference to religion but that their beliefs are not ascribed to by all. The religious belief that religious beliefs have no place in public service is also not uniformly accepted, but those who hold to it see no contradiction in seeking to establish it there.
I point this out not to advocate for codifying Christianity but to expose the hypocrisy of those who advocate against Christian beliefs in the public sphere so that their own religious beliefs can rule. If they believe that the physical world is all there is…God as our creator and Lord is a myth…that is a religious belief. If they maintain that a public servant or shopkeeper is subject to the state and its people over and above any deity, that is a religious belief. They are basing their assertions on their personal beliefs about the supernatural.
We have competing beliefs…even within Christendom. The task of accommodating all of them in a civilized society is sticky business, and I don’t envy the legislators and administrators charged with it.
But as our society continues down the slide toward comprehensive secularization, their task becomes simpler – religious beliefs must be checked at every public door so that one’s public self must be strictly secular. With no collective acknowledgment of the supernatural, my faith will be of less consideration in my public life than my fashion sense.
A country ruled within an ideology that is effectively atheistic is a concern for me. Is it for you? What if those who continue to maintain their primary allegiance to God in defiance of the state’s demand for supremacy are perceived to be such a nuisance that criminalization of public expressions of faith is seen as necessary to stability and order?
Hmmm. Where have we seen that before? And now.
If we don’t want the USA to go the way of the Soviet Union, North Korea, and the People’s Republic of China, we need to be less accommodating of pluralism and more intentional about discovering truth. Expelling all religious expressions so as not to favor any may seem tolerant and civilized, but history and human nature weigh heavily against its advisability.
Better instead to value and support the search for truth about the supernatural, while we respect all persons no matter their religious beliefs. Tolerance from a position of truth is a hallmark of a strong, stable, and free society. Intolerance from a position of relativistic pluralism or effective atheism is a hallmark of a despotic one.